The afternoon of the 2018 Royal London final was spent chatting to a players’ agent, an enthusiast for the ECB’s new competition amidst the game’s traditional audience, he made the point that for some of the players he worked with it might be a chance to something like double their earnings from playing the game.
A polite conversation ended with agreement that cricket needs to attract more younger spectators than were present that day. ‘The 100’ is billed as the route to this end and for its duration large incentives to focus on the white-ball game seem to be coming the way of many players, in a sport with small numbers at the top on central contracts well remunerated, the great majority of professionals a great deal less so.
As to the effect on the playing base for Test cricket this brings us to the extent to which the game has already divided into those who specialise in one format or another. In the 2018 English season there were 450+ players who appeared at least once for their county; of these, around 300 appeared in the Blast, one marker for the numbers who might conceivably think of themselves as possibles for the new competition, and of these, around 80% (230+) also played some Championship cricket.
|Did not play at all||77 (34)||172 (101)||152(111)|
England-qualified in brackets.
As a marker this is, of course, open to the comment that those who played more often, those who performances keep them in and around their side over a season, may in many cases be more of a possible, if not a probable. The Worcestershire team, for example, that won the 2018 Blast had four players who were ever-present, and some 90% or so of the names on their team sheets during the competition were occupied by 12 players. These are not numbers to surprise particularly, around 90% of the places in the Surrey Championship winning side were occupied by 14 players, and the graphic below shows that player counts for the game as a whole were not very dis-similar.
The players’ appearance numbers are lined up in increasing order, Joe Root’s for example (3 Championship matches, 1 T20) put him centre-left, those for Joe Denly (14 and 13) put him at the right hand end. T20 cricket is concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of players than is the case in the first-class game, and if ‘the 90%ers’ were taken as a another marker for ECB competition possibles, then the number drops to just under 230. Around two-thirds of these players were also ‘90%ers’ in their Championship sides.
|‘The 90%ers’||T20||FC||FC, who play T20|
|England-Qualified aged under 26||60||85||42|
In short, taking a broad brush for some sense of the overall picture, while some specialisation there be, and not all of it short-term overseas hires by any means, in 2018 there were more T20 cricketers who were also Championship players; amongst the England qualified they numbered about a half of the Championship ‘regulars’. The question prompted by this is what is going to be done to solidify the careers of those who see themselves as red-ball cricketers?
Data on appearances compiled from Cricket Archive, nationalities taken from Cricinfo. The second table is based on rankings by county.